Shrouded, stitched in silky white,
they cry aloud all through the night
and find such weeping not enough,
the bird of guilt brings that sound here
for our anxiety and fear.
Once you were sweetest.
You turned bitter hot.
The wind compressed your breast.
Silence turned to test.
You were. Now you’re not.
Without a sled, the little snow
circled the strange land far below
and fell on lips, on women’s faces
as they poured themselves into clay embraces
where the poisoned honeycomb was laid.
Nothing but silent snow falling, snow not
making a sound, like a hand that writes
to cover everything up. Snow falls right
on the window, falls white on the piers,
it lies down a moment, then disappears
to another world—and you miss it a lot.
I’ve heard when it sees horses under the yoke
it performs a miracle like a joke,
and laughs when the coachman, without thinking,
creature of habit and heavy drinking,
eyes dazzled by glistening steeds and tack,
still calls his horses black.
2 July 1940
Translated by Lyn Coffin and Leda Pugh